Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas 2012

THE reason for the season - at Nativity scene in St. Paul Cathedral
Yes, the end of Thanksgiving weekend and the arrival of my sisters was the "kickoff" to the Christmas season for us, however, our true "nitty gritty" came in a whirlwind of preparations once the 6 nights of the sisters' Christmas extravaganza ended. Christmas shopping, cookie baking, gingerbread house decorating, Christmas party attending, school function attending, Santa prep, wrapping, cooking, waiting..... all ensued at a frantic pace.  Every year I say I want to be ready for Christmas early so that I can leisurely enjoy the season and yet, every year, I seem to fail miserably at this goal.  Hmmmm.....maybe that should be on my list of New Years Resolutions (again) for 2013.

Goodies from Buffalo and Canada
OF COURSE hair dye is part of the preparations!
"Rhinestone Cowboy" on the way to David's work party
The kids with Santa - Mall of America
All this Christmas hustle and bustle started off with some more work travel for David (grrr).  David actually left the same day that my sisters did.  This time he was off to Toronto (via Buffalo).  Thankfully it was a short trip, only two days - but an early Christmas present for me was all the goodies David brought back from our old stomping grounds.  Not only did his morning flight arrived back in Minnesota with him carrying along donuts for breakfast from Tim Horton's but David also came with many of the goodies needed to feed a WNY food fix - sponge candy, pastry hearts, some Wegmans couscous blends and Coffee Crisp candy bars (from Canada).  David's mom had also requested some Polish food for our Indiana Christmas dinner.  Unfortunately, the day that David's schedule allowed him to visit Redlinski's for kielbasa & pierogi, Redlinski's was closed.  The good news, however, is that I was forced to find a local alternative (not so easy to do here).  I am pleased to say that the kielbasa (Kramarczuk's) and pierogi (Ziach's) that I found here was a not so bad, in a pinch, alternative - and was "taste tested" during our Indiana Christmas.

Our family with Santa
Shhhhh...don't tell Santa!
Of course *only* after a trip to the salon for a much need hair dye AND a *painful* day of shopping for an outfit....which I STILL wasn't 100% happy with (not sure if I looked like the Rhinestone Cowboy or a Cheektowaga (NY) granny heading to Vegas), I was prepped and ready to attend David's work Christmas party.  The party this year was at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis.  Cocktail hour, and a dinner while watching the jazz performance was an enjoyable night out for David and me.

Dinner at Rainforest Cafe after seeing Santa
Proud author at school's "author share"
Kitchen linens with Mom's & Grandma's handwriting

Madeline making a pot holder for Uncle Marty
I was super, super, busy organizing and managing all our last minute details, however, I was also extremely excited about one of the gifts I was giving.  For my family's "Kris Kringle" gift exchange, David and I had my sisters, Marysia and Margaret.  Our family has purposely set a low price budget on our exchange to (a) continue with the spirit of giving between us siblings and spouses and (b) this helps to focus our gift purchases to be more personalized (a fun challenge with a small budget).  For my sisters (got the idea from Pintrest), David and I scanned in some hand written recipes - one in my mom's handwriting and one in my grandmother's handwriting.  David helped me upload the images to a website that creates custom fabric from your scanned images.  With the very skilled helped of my cousin, Judy, the fabric was cut, hemmed and sewn to create custom kitchen linen towels with my mother's and grandmother's handwriting.  The only thing I regret is not ordering enough fabric to make some for myself!!  Nothing is better than having a gift to give that you are excited about giving. (Thanks Judy!)

As the weekend before Christmas arrived, I still hadn't baked any Christmas cookies.  Before children I used to enjoy baking cookies.  In fact, when David and I where still living in our apartment (mid to late 90's) I used to take a day off of work and turn the kitchen into Amy's bakery, making numerous types of cookies.  Now, cookie making is one of my least favorite things to do because it is so time consuming.....and at this time of year I usually have so little time.  Besides, although cookies are one of my favorite treats in the world, we ALL know who would end up eating the majority of these cookies.  Yep, me - the one who needs it the least!  Thank God for Super-Dad, David!!  Since Madeline was bugging out about making cookies for Santa, David took the time to bake with Madeline as I finished our last minute Christmas shopping.
Madeline starting the cookie making

Licking the beaters clean from frosting
Cookie decorating
Madeline as gingerbread house architect
Madeline and I are ready to tackle the mall
Finally, Christmas Eve arrived!  I managed to prepare a traditional Polish Wigilia dinner, which we enjoyed after attending a 4pm Mass.  Why do I mention this???  To be able to say that with two over excited and, although only 4pm, probably two overtired kids at Mass, "issues" are bound to arise.  Mass was pretty hysterical.  Jonathan was pretty good for the beginning, yet he decided that he wanted to get down and wander.  I carried Jonathan to the side entrance so as to not disturb people around us.  Since it was a Christmas Mass the church had temporary overflow seating all the way down the side corridor.  I spied the glassed in entrance foyer and tested out the temperature....heated, yeah!  I decided to take Jonathan in there so that he could run around a little. As Jonathan pulled on the glass doors, but could not open them, I was proud of my problem solving ability - that is until Jonathan figured out that he just needed to hit the handicap door button.  I tried to stand guard in front of the button but either my butt would hit the button and/or my crazed son would somehow get a hand behind me.  UGH!  Finally, I decided that I needed a moment of prayer time too and it was David's shift with the little man.  David found his way with Jonathan to the church's "crying room' (huh?! who knew?!....obviously, we have yet to find a "home parish")  Jonathan's behavior was not much better and so David has now renamed the crying room to be "the penalty box". 

A break from shopping to visit with friends
More mall silliness
We got home, I finished cooking up our meal and we sat down to enjoy our Christmas Eve celebration.  Madeline LOVES this meal.  It certainly helps that she loves fish.  In fact, between *only* Madeline and I, the two of us polished off a jar of herring!  Yet Madeline also enjoys the tradition of the oplatki, or sharing of the Christmas wafer.......or shall I say, what Madeline calls the "special chips".  By the time dinner was over, Mama and Papa were exhausted!  We put out the cookies and milk for Santa and a treat for the reindeer and shuffled the kids off to bed as quickly as possible so that Santa would be able to arrive. 

Sharing Opletki for the first time - Christmas Eve
Madeline showing Jonathan the ropes of getting ready for Santa
Our Christmas tree
Christmas morning is always a very laid back, stay in your PJs until late afternoon kind of day.  A present explosion, followed by taking lots of time, playing and exploring our new toys, together as a family.  Santa was very good to us this year.....we really are truly blessed by God - family, friends, health, a job, a home.....the list goes on and on.  So, so blessed!

Santa arrived!!!
Opening some fun!
A Christmas explosion!
Our Christmas dinner was a quicker recipe than the Beef Wellington that I have made in years past.  This year we had a Roast (beef) Tenderloin.  Such an easy recipe and so good (thanks  Christmas Day ended with Madeline coming to the dinner table with chills.  Madeline barely ate two bites and headed to bed with a 104 fever.  Poor gal....  Thankfully Madeline fought the fever overnight.  We weren't sure if we were still going to travel to Indiana that day, however after assessing the situation when Madeline awoke and monitoring the situation during the morning, we decided that we would still leave for Indiana that afternoon (we figured that Madeline would actually rest *more* with a day in the car than if we were home).

By Wednesday evening we were in Indiana and ready for round two of our Christmas celebrations.  Madeline and Jonathan enjoy spending time with Grandma and Grandpa.  Yet, Jonathan is not as good of a traveler as Madeline was as a toddler.  Therefore, Jonathan's sleeping is very much disturbed when we travel.  David and I slept worse on this trip (due to Jonathan getting up during the night) than when Jonathan was a newborn!  Although I am sure David's dad enjoyed our visit, I am also certain that he was ready for us to leave too, so that he could also get some sleep!  Our "Indiana Christmas" involved arranging a meal to be brought in and shared at David's mom's nursing home.  A private conference room was reserved and thanks to David's sister, Carolyn, the room was transformed into a Christmas Wonderland.  Each of the siblings contributed a piece of the celebration and we had a very nice celebration together at the nursing home.  Unfortunately, I have a very bad habit of taking very few pictures while in Indiana.  As a result,  I do not have much to share, in terms of photos, from our trip to Indiana.

Madeline playing with her new My Little Pony wedding Castle
Aunt Lynn playing with Jonathan - in Indiana
We were on the road again on Saturday (29th).  We were ready to have a few relaxing days at home before David headed back to work, therefore, we were pleased to make the near 500 mile trip - with two kids and a dog, with only one stop!  We made record time at 7 hours.....woo hoo!

David took Jonathan to Lake Michigan in his home town - in Indiana
Hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, traveling......they can all be fun, however, the absolute best gift I was given is the extra quality time with David and the kids.  The love of those that are dear to you is what makes this time of year special.  THIS is my gift.  THIS I cherish. 

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